Sunday, September 1, 2013

Death of a Chromebook

It's time for me to swallow my pride and admit that I killed my Chromebook. Oh, okay, so maybe it's not really dead, but it might as well be. I guess, technically speaking, it's in a persistant vegetative state - like a coma.

For those who don't yet know, there's a hack circulating the web that will supposedly allow you to shorten the 30 second delay at boot that comes with developer mode to 2-3 seconds with minimal risk of problems. You just have to flash the Read-only firmware. Well, verily, I say unto you, "Don't believe the pipe!" (RIP, Richard). It's a lie!

I wish to state for the record that I'm not exactly a noob at flashing EEPROMs. I've been flashing devices of some sort for probably 35 years and have never bricked anything that I couldn't recover ... until this Chromebook! I flashed the patched firmare and everything seemed to go perfectly. There was no indication of any sort of problem, so I rebooted and ... nada. It hasn't booted up since. It powers on and after 20 seconds or something, the fan kicks in, but thats all it ever does. Now, perhaps, you get the coma analogy.  The light comes on, but there's nobody home.

So 2 weeks, $60 in gizmos and probably 120 hours of research and hacking later, all I can say is: Kids, don't try this at home! Please!!


  1. Geez, that's pretty terrifying.

    From the reference to $60 in gizmos, I guess that jtag recovery wasn't really viable? Or is there some other way to recover eeprom (I really don't know).

    Your blog has been all but indispensable in helping me upgrade my cromebook from tasteful web browser to usable computer. If you have an Amazon wishlist, Paypal or (etc) I'd be glad to chip in and help you get a working replacement.

    1. I am deeply moved by your kind offer. Thank you, truly!

      I may be forced to replace it eventually, but I haven't abandoned all hope quite yet. I just wanted to get the word out, because I hate to think of thousands of C7s ending up in landfills because people believed that this operation is "low-risk."

      The explanation is complicated and I prefer not to get into it unless I can validate my theory by successfully recovering the device. But, I have used a "Bus Pirate" to re-flash the original firmware (backed up with Flashrom) but it has failed to resolve the issue. I will post more information if/when I can confirm its accuracy.

      And thanks again for your kind words!

    2. OK, well I look forward to reading about the recovery process.

      The offer stands, if you opt for a replacement you can find my email address on my profile to get my attention.

    3. I'm willing to chip in some money for a replacement as well. I've gotten more help on this blog than anywhere else.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. RootKit:

      I appreciate your enthusiasm and am very glad this worked out well for you, but the person you cited was one of my sources when I attempted this.

      I know you were only trying to help and so, I sincerely apologize for removing your comment. But, please understand that you were endorsing and encouraging something that I'm advising people to avoid like H.I.V. Please don't take offense to this choice. If, at some point, I can explain where I went wrong and tell people how to avoid bricking their devices, I will proudly display links to that content. And I really hope this is the case!

      Again, Congratulations! And thanks for the info and for trying to help!

  3. I'm sorry to hear that and I fully understand. I know I'm probably lucky. We may think alike on this. There is a reason this happened and without knowing the real cause, It'll likely happen again. Some people may classify this as a "fluke", but there IS a cause for this and it must be discovered. My wife likes to use the fluke thing and I hate that saying. I'm sure you were warned about the risks but in reality no one expects the results to be a bricked chromebook.